Sim& family

Did the usual clean-the-flat-before visitors. Tesco delivered at 1105h – initially he’d wanted to leave the boxes of stuff at the doorstep, for me to pull out the bags of shopping and carry them in. however, I was pretty firm about saying that this wasn’t possible – apart from anything else, I couldn’t bend down to ground level to get at it. So he carried the bags in, albeit a bit grudgingly.

Afternoon and evening taken up with baking – usual bread, and a seedy-cake for visitors over the weekend.

Phone call from Sim around 1600h, to say that they were just leaving their gite.

Had a baked spud and ham for supper, and made up the spare bed and sofabed. A quick hoover round, but wasn’t really feeling up to much housework.

Occupational Health, family, etc

Got a call from OHU just after 11 this morning, offering me an appointment at 1300h. Bit of a mad scramble to get there (I had meant to iron a shirt & trousers last night, but didn’t get round to it). OHU Reception is now in G08 – the old Halls Bookings Office, and the main unit is on the 3rd floor. When I arrived, the lift to 3rd floor was out of order – not unusual! It was rather a struggle to do the stairs … although a very kind lady from OHU accompanied me in case I slipped, which I was worried about doing. I made it up as far as halfway up the final flight before having to stop for a bit.

Shown into the waiting area – the room that used to be my office until June 2003! The view from the window hasn’t changed … brought back a bunch of memories (mainly bad ones), so I was in a bit of a strange mood when the Doctor finally called me in (around 1340 – running very late). A new doctor, who hadn’t read my file. Not happy! When I got home I emailed Steve Barton at Unison about it – the relevant parts are:

OHU have a new doctor – Dr Thompson – who was not familiar with my case and didn’t really seem all that on top of things. I have given her permission to contact both the NHS consultant at the Pain Clinic I have been attending, and the private consultant I saw in April. (This last was an effort to speed things up a bit – although it doesn’t seem to have helped). This may introduce yet more delay – if I need to re-visit the Pain Clinic before the consultant will write a report on me, waiting times are around 4-6 months for an appointment usually.

Dr Thompson informed me (with apparent equanimity) that early retirement on medical grounds can take up to a year, from this point. As I have been discussing this possibility with my line manager (while I still had one!) informally since February, and as you know raised the matter through you with Jane Battye in May, I am not too chuffed that it has taken eight months to get this far, and I face the prospect of an indeterminate but prolonged period without pay. I confirm that I was last paid at the full rate on 25th February, and my understanding therefore would normally be that the last payment of the six months on half-pay would be made on 26th August 2005.

Could I also ask you to try to establish whether I have a line manager, and what my position is considered to be? I have a medical certificate to submit, and it would be helpful to know where to send it. Also, as I gather Halls Services either no longer exists, or will not exist as of the end of the month (some staff now being part of the contact centre, and others transferring to FM next month as I understand it), I take it that I should assume that I am now in a “supernumerary” position?

Actually, I was so not happy that when I got out of OHU I went round to see if Steve was free, but he was in meetings all afternoon.

I spent half an hour talking to Halls duty managers (Steve and Pam), and met the guy who is about to take over the final part of my job for the last month that Halls exists. I’ve told him to ring me if he needs to about anything. Dennis – who was brought in as temporary cover for me – is leaving at the end of the week.


Got home around 1700h. Back really acting up (too soon after last weekend to do that much time sitting around, and the Piccadilly line train was a very bumpy one) – both pain and restricted mobility. So I have conceded the point, and placed an on-line Tesco order for delivery tomorrow (Sim & family staying tomorrow night) – bulk catfood, shitty-kitty-litter, flour and all sorts of heavy stuff. Eighty quid ! (including £6 delivery). However, it includes a pack of 100 camel, so about £60 on “shopping” stuff. This is four weeks worth at least, for the non-fresh-food stuff. Must remember to take out much less from the cashpoint on a weekly basis from now on.

I’ve put the fridge on to de-frost (some frozen food on order for tomorrow), with everything piled in the picnic coolbag under a couple of towels, so I hope it will be OK in the morning. Started cleaning the kitchen, but not really up to it tonight (at 2100h), so it looks like a fairly busy day tomorrow.


Nice e-mail from Sean to me & Oli, suggesting we meet up next week. Would be good if it happens. Also an e-mail from Mike – we’ve provisionally agreed to meet for a meal on the evening of Monday 12th September, while he’s over for PLASA. I am both exhilarated and terrified at the prospect – it’s been 3 years since I last saw him, and he’s got married and gone freelance in that time. But we were very close for a dozen years, and he still means a lot to me (in spite of the fact that my feelings were for a while too mixed up to make correspondence easy).

Also a phone call from Toby, asking if he and Chloe can stay on Fri 26th. which they’re very welcome to, of course. It looks as though I’m away that night, as the fishing weekend starts Sat 27th, unfortunately, but if work is still in a state of “might need to see me at short notice”, I might see if I can juggle things to go to Suffolk early on the Saturday, rather than Fri pm. It would also save carrying a day’s worth of clothes!


Freezer defrost happened much quicker than I’d expected (although it’s a warm night) – all melted by 2245, so I was able to mop it out and put the things back. Will save a bit of time tomorrow, anyway.

bright, bright, bright sunshiney day !

Spent last night dozing from about 2230 onwards – woke around 0030 for an hour and went to bed properly, didn’t wake until 1130 ! Obviously had not been sleeping deeply for the past three or four nights, and I’m sure its done me good to get caught up. Brilliant sunshine today! Back is a bit stiff -too much lying down, probably – but pain is nearly down to the usual residual level, so I’m more-or-less recovered from Saturday’s busrides.

Managed to put a washing-machine full on – white T-shirts mainly. Flat is looking a bit grubby – as Sim & family are due on Fri night I will try to get a bit of a start on bath-cleaning and stuff, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t get very far as there’s tomorrow and Fri daytime. I must also think about washing some sheets from the last set of family visits (Jane & Toby’s I’ll re-use when they come at the weekend, and the sleeping bags are OK for the kids) and making up beds.

A very pleasant hour in the garden lying in the sun again – and, for a change, both cats were happy doing their own thing, rather than trying to lie on my stomach all the time.

pain clinic, work

Started the morning yesterday rather better than the past two days, but not back to normal. Review meeting at the Pain Clinic this morning – I think it was much the worst I’ve scored myself on the “how do you feel today ” sheet!. I seem to be getting as much benefit from the unit as can be expected – which is gain in mobility, giving me the option of doing more before I relapse into a bad state, but not really all that much difference in the maximum pain level. The next stage – if I’m interested – would be injections (epidural or intramuscular). Given as I really hate injections, and given my body’s propensity to react to many drugs with a wide range of weird side-effects,, I’m not keen to go this route at the moment.

We also discussed the headache and slightly migrainous feeling I get if I use the TENS unit to the max for a day or two. She has suggest that I try turning the pulse width down from the normal setting of 180 to around 150, and if necessary I could go as low as 100. I’ll try this next time it becomes a problem. No further TENS review meetings are needed. So I have left it that I am OK for the time being in the fairly warm summer weather, but that if Autumn storms (predicted to be bad this year) cause the trouble that I’m half-expecting, I will ring them to arrange a further meeting with the consultant (Dr Evans), with a view to his considering injections. At the moment though, I’m generally very grateful to be as good as I (on average) usually am. The past two days have been an unwelcome reminder of how I was feeling throughout most of last autumn!

Got home to find an e-mail from Angela Servias. Apparently, I was expected at work Occupational Health Unit yesterday for a meeting with the doctor! I tried to call Angela, but she was out so I e-mailed her to explain. Caroline Ward mailed me back to offer an appointment on 5th September – oh well.

I spent a couple of hours lying on the lawn in hot sunshine – the pump I bought a couple of weeks ago means that I could do so on an airbed!! Yay! It is a great improvement to be able to sunbathe flat on my back (jeans on, but topless).

Phone call from Steve Barton (Unison) around 1600h. I brought him up to date on the current sate of play, and explained my worries about pay etc. Further exchanges of e-mail pm with OHU and Angela. So, if there is a cancellation before 5th Sept I may be offered a short-notice appointment, otherwise 5th Sept stands. Checked the doormat – the letter inviting me to OHU yesterday (15th) has now arrived. Postmarked 9th – ie Tues of last week.

Other exciting arrivals include my Maestro (was Switch) card. I have the PIN for it. This means that I can now order really heavy/bulky shopping on-line for delivery – catfood, flour, and suchlike. I will have to keep a careful eye on how much I use it – especially given uncertainty about getting paid next month. However, there might be a saving on being able to buy larger sizes, or in bulk a bit … to offset the delivery charges. Ocado (Waitrose) is free over £75, min order £25; Tesco has a £5 delivery charge for 2-hour (apparently unreliable) slots. I will have to think about this a bit. Probably best to start a spreadsheet for the regular heavy stuff, & keep notes on what I use how often. Ain’t life complicated sometimes!

Evening spent watering: even though we had dampness and showers on Sat-Mon, the ground is very dry. A run round the assorted pots with the hose, then a good hour on the top bed, and an hour with the sprinkler on the bottom of the lawn / little bed / twisted cherry area.

two very rough days

warning: self-pity section!

I continued to have constant pain in my back, and intermittent intense referred pain from my right testicle, all day Sunday, and most of Monday. Mobility actually not too bad in terms of bending forwards/backwards, but excruciatingly painful if I attempt any kind of twisting of sideways motion. As quite often happens if this kind of pain sets in, I got “bitten by the black dog” on Sunday afternoon, and have been in a state of serious depresso since then. The usual bursting into tears for no reason, total loss of appetite, and a mild headache with slightly migrainous visual problems.

Maximum use of TENS unit, but I’ve had to cut back on that because it’s reached the point of shifting muscle tenseness up to my shoulders… which makes the headache /eyes thing worse. I did manage a walk to PC World to pick up some blank DVD’s: thought the fresh air might do me good, and my mobility is actually OK, but it didn’t really help. Back via Tesco to pick up supper and catfood.

Nearly 2300h on Monday as I write this, and I’m really not feeling much better yet, despite max doses of co-codamol, regular mild use of TENS unit, and re-starting St John’s wort. Hope that a bath (and with a bit of luck going to sleep earlier than the six am that has been the case for the last two days) will mean I start off tomorrow a bit better: I’ve got to be in Hammersmith for 1015 for a TENS review. The thought of an hour on the tube in my present condition is actually almost unbearable.

This is what I SO FUCKING HATE about my disability. I can cope with having limited mobility, think I’ve adjusted pretty OK to feeling that in some ways I’m old before my time… have a reasonable grip on the frustrations of having to get others to do things (DIY etc) that in some sense I still feel I “ought” to be able to do for myself, and accepting that there will just be days when i can’t hoover, or empty the dishwasher / washing machine, or whatever. But when I have more than a few hours of unremitting intense pain and the weather is damp enough for it not to be localised to my lower back, the black dog bites.

To be reduced to bursting into tears for no reason, to feel totally yucky, emotionally fragile, and physically in pain (even if mobility is not particularly poor) is the pits. I know it will pass in two or three days. I know the frequency with which it happens is a LOT less than it was (down to about once every five or six weeks or less on average, from about once a fortnight ). And I certainly generally don’t feel that life is not worth living – there has been so much positive in my life this year. But Oh God it is so hard to deal with sometimes … all I can do is curl up and whimper and wait for it to go away!

Positive learning outcome: DO NOT STAY ON ANY BUS, TRAIN, ETC that I can feel doing me damage. It is SO not worth it, for almost any reason. So I guess I’m gonna have to get up especially early tomorrow, so that I have plenty of time to catch Silverlink to Gunnersbury then district line back to Hammersmith … and to pass up the odd train if it starts bouncing around for any reason.

Mark’s visit

Mark came round about 1945 – good to see him. He was on a bike, as the car is in for repair (no dashboard lights – must have been a horrid drive up from Suffolk yesterday). Supper of a rather nice chicken pie from a butcher in Peasenhall, icecream & red & black currants.

Went through the intro page with him – he’s a bit of a white space merchant, certainly not a subscriber to the idea that all info should be available without scrolling. i made some mods while he took a bath (only 1/2 hour … hope he didn’t feel rushed as he usually takes a good hour, the same as I do). A few minor mods to the intro page and we’re both happy. Some of the links seem to need a mod, so I’ll sort that out later (weekend, possibly).

Then watched an episode of Dr Who I’d recorded that neither of us have seen yet (episode 8) – evening ended around midnight.

had a text from Sean today asking if I am going to Oli’s. He seems a little nervous as he also won’t know anyone – I’ve emailed him back saying I’m in the same boat, and offering to meet up first if he wants. E-mail back – late eve – saying he’ll ring me Fri to fix this up.

quiet day

followup e-mail from Oli confirming that he’s going ahead with Saturday 1400-1800h. It might be interesting to meet his other friends, but I’m rather nervous at the prospect (being a lot older than he is, being disabled, getting to the point of hearing loss where things like parties can be a problem, not liking parties much …. all the usual crap). But unless the weather is absolutely foul I’ll certainly go along – this is supposed to be the year where I operate rather outside my (hopefully former) comfort zone. Anyway, Oli would undoubtedly give me a certain amount of gentle ribbing if I don’t make it – one of the things I most value about him is the way he can constantly challenge me,without ever pushing too hard.

Did a bit more work on a couple of demo pages for Mark, otherwise a gentle day recovering from yesterday: why do I always overdo things when I go out? But at least I can now choose to do this if I want to – the TENS unit is a blessing in that sense.

garden, GP again

Spent the morning in the garden – pleasant sunshine, 24 degrees, and the first of the dark Morning Glory flowers is out … possibly because I’ve been watering every day for the past week unless there’s been significant rain. The acid-yellow snapdragons are coming to an end, but I think the one that shares the tub with the morning glory has another flowering left in it: they should look fantastic if I can get them flowering together!

The fuschia on the waterbarrel is starting to do well: it seems to be an exceptionally prostrate form, which is excellent for the spot. Next year I might try to add one of the white trailing ones as well – it’s just a little bit ‘same-y’ at present. Geranium (pelargonium) ‘apple blossom’ is in full flower in the pot on the top bed – but the one outside the back door is always late (if at all) – due to lack of sunlight, I think.

Doctor’s appointment at 1410: Dr Sergeant is now only working as holiday relief, so I got a new guy who I didn’t take to terribly. But I needed a new certificate for work, and also more co-codamol (much cheaper with a prescription for 400 than over-the-counter, but he’d only give me a scrip for 200. Still a slight saving though).

Came back via Hammersmith …I’d decided to change my phone contract as I no longer need so many inclusive minutes now I’m not at work. So I’m now on 25 inclusive minutes rather than 60. I’ve stopped itemised billing, as well, but kept on the insurance. Total cost now around 37 a month cheaper … every little helps! Also upgraded my phone … didn’t want to shell out money for it, so I got a Sharp GX25. Just a little smaller than my present one, 640×480 camera, no sticking out antenna, plus the essential iRDA. The old one can go to Theo or Chloe (I’ll ask Jane which, as Chloe got my last old phone a couple of years ago).

Back rather painful after spending the afternoon on public transport etc. Evening spent deleting stuff off old phone, transferring numbers etc … the IR beam from the PDA is fine, but the phone rejected quite a lot so I had to do it by hand. I suspect that some fields in Outlook are not fully compatible – there is a CD-ROM with the phone, so I may decide to spend money on the USB lead for it. But for the time being the USB lead to PDA, then iRDA to phone, and the same in reverse, works well enough.

Rang Oli around 1900h – he is going ahead with having a garden party or whatever on sat (13th) from 1400-1800h. He seemed tired, but has had a good time in Paris.

E-mail and followup call from Mark: the upshot is that he’s coming round on Thurs eve for a bath and final go at the website as he’s in London for a couple of days. He volunteered to bring food and cook – sounds good.

more family


Morning spent shopping! Walked up to Argos with mum to get a replacement kettle – typical that an essential household appliance should break down when she comes to visit, it seems to happen every time. Then back via Tesco for food for tonight etc. Mum found the walk back from Tesco with shopping rather difficult – she is only used to carrying stuff as far as the car, apparently. Though I think she was probably carrying a bit more than me – out of concern for my back.

Mum wanted to do the veg’s after lunch, so she did this while I lay down … trying to get as much use out of my back as possible over the next couple of days, so am resting where possible.

Toby and Theo arrived soon after 1500h: cup of tea in the garden, but Theo rapidly disappeared to watch the Test match on C4. Around 1600h we decided to go for a walk – Theo would obviously have preferred to stay watching the cricket, but was his usual cheerful self. Tube one stop, then a pleasant walk on Tottenham Marshes up to the lock. Watched a couple of boats going through, back home around 1745, rather later than planned. but a phone call from Jane (& Chloe) to say that they were just about to catch a bus from the bottom of the Grays Inn Road … they arrived about 1900h.

Supper – later than planned – at 2000h was roast chicken and stuff (veggie-sossies and separate stuffing for Chloe), apple pie to follow (cheat – bought ready-roll pastry). Went down well – Theo tried the butternut squash and really liked it, Chloe had three helping of roast spuds. I was please that the kids enjoyed the meal – Mum had been rather worried that I tend to use herbs and spices in cooking (cloves in the apple pie, for example), but either the kids didn’t notice, or they found it OK.

Kids – well, all of us – were pretty stuffed after the first course, so there was a 20-minute break before pudding. Theo found one of the Simpsons DVD’s, and sat very quietly on the sofa looking at the cover. It was obvious that he wanted to watch it, but realised that with the dining table out it isn’t possible to use the telly in the front room. I cleared things with Jane, then offered him to use my bedroom telly & DVD player … the expression on his face as he settled into the recliner armchair in the bedroom with the remote controls to hand was priceless! Chloe soon joined him, and they were allowed to eat pud. in there.

I retreated to the garden after supper (I do try not to smoke in the flat when I have non-smoking visitors) while the others cleared up & stacked the dishwasher. then coffee in the garden for adults while Chloe and Theo continued with the DVD.


Morning was a bit of a panic as Chloe took forever in the bathroom – it’s true what they say about 15-year-old girls! However, everyone off on time OK. Mum then retreated to bed for another couple of hours, while I did a bit of clearing up and stuff.

Mum wanted to get an Italian dictionary (she’d left hers at home) and some holiday reading, so went to the bookshop Bam uses on Haverstock Hill. Tube / Silverlink to Kentish Town West – got a bit lost going to the bottom of Haverstock Hill as Mum got diverted into walking through the park, so went a roundabout way. Visited Daunt books (I got Grigson’s “English Food”, and Luke Sutherland’s “Venus as a Boy”). home via Hampstead Heath Silverlink, getting back around 1430. Lunch of cold chicken & salami, salad etc, then a lie down. My back has just about reached its limits – even with max. painkillers and use of TENS unit, so my movements were pretty constrained in the evening, although I tried fairly hard not to let it show too much for fear of worrying Mum. I did explain, however, that the TENS unit lets me do more than normal, but that when I reach my limits it takes a painful couple of days to get back to the usual state. The damp drizzly weather didn’t help, either.

Supper was chicken soup and the rest of the apple pies from Thurs. Mum had an early night – cab booked for 0330h Sat. I had a bath etc around 0130, but didn’t go to bed … wanted to be up to see her off, which happened on time. Then to bed and collapse!

family visit

Tues pm was a trip to Argos to get a pump for airbeds: I’d intended a footpump, but was seduced by a battery-powered blower. Got home and dug the airbeds out to test them for leaks – the blower inflates then in LESS THAN A MINUTE through the large hole! YAY! (Though if I didn’t smoke so much I might not be so terrified at the thought of blowing up two airbeds) Left them for a couple of hours and they don’t seem to be leaking, so have deflated them & hung in the bathroom to air them out as they smell of rubber rather as a result of not having been used for a couple of years and stored in a plastic bag.

Spent Tues eve & Weds am cleaning the flat – full thing: hoovering, dusting, cleaning the bath etc. Also trip to Tesco, for as much as I could carry (including desperately-needed cat litter).

Mum arrived teatime Weds, having been delayed leaving home. She’s scared of tubes after the bombs, so caught a cab from Baker Street. £5 on the coach Oxford to London, followed by £25 cab! Pleasant evening in the garden.

Sim rang with update on his move. Their buyer is now back on, having sorted out someone to buy their existing property. however, the place that Sim wants to buy is accepting an offer from someone else, as Sim had had to pull out / defer. However, if that doesn’t work out, they’ll reconsider Sim’s offer! BUT, Sim & Anne have seen another place which they very much like – house dating from 1430, 10 acres …. has not yet actually gone on sale, but they’ll put an offer in via the solicitor as soon as it does (by phone from France, if necessary). I really hope that this one works out for them.